Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Cognitive Neuroscience/BIC: Dr. Maital Neta, "In the ‘Face’ of Uncertainty: Characterizing Individual Differences in Response to Emotional Ambiguity"

Fri, October 11, 2019 | SEAY 4.244

12:00 PM

Cognitive Neuroscience & Biomedical Imaging Center Seminar Series


Maital Neta, Ph.D
Happold Associate Professor of Psychology
Associate Director of Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


"In the ‘Face’ of Uncertainty:
Characterizing Individual Differences in Response to Emotional Ambiguity"


Friday, October 11 • 12-1
SEAY 4.244


Abstract: Our daily lives are saturated with affective value (e.g., a visit from a friend, the ringing of an alarm clock, a beautiful sunset, a hot cup of coffee). When we encounter new information (new people, sounds, locations, flavors), we readily sort this information into emotional valence categories: good or bad, reward or threat, approach or avoid. Facial expressions, in particular, convey rich information about another person and the environment. Some expressions are clear-cut (angry face predicts threat/avoidance), whereas others are more ambiguous, because they can readily predict both rewarding or threatening outcomes. For example, a surprised facial expression is associated with both positive (an unexpected visit from an old friend) and negative (hearing that a loved one was in a car accident) information.

We and others have documented a wide range of individual differences in ‘valence bias,’ or the tendency to categorize ambiguous cues (e.g., surprised faces) as having a positive or negative valence. In this talk, I will discuss just a few of the approaches (behavioral, psychophysiological, neuroimaging, developmental) that we have used in the lab to examine these individual differences in valence bias, and to test both its stability and its malleability. In the end, I will also discuss some newer ideas about what mechanism(s) might play a role in producing a particular valence bias.


Sponsored by: Department of Psychology Cognitive Neuroscience Area

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